INX Media case: 71 retired bureaucrats write to PM Modi on sanctioning prosecution of 4 ex-officials

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Published: October 4, 2019 10:09:08 PM

The government had already sanctioned the prosecution of former finance minister P Chidambaram in February this year, following which he was arrested by the CBI.

The retired bureaucrats said rules must be framed to make the legal principle of estoppel apply on reopening decisions based on information provided at the time the decision was taken.

Seventy-one retired bureaucrats on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing concern over the prosecution of four former officials of the Finance Ministry in the INX Media case and asserted that such action will demotivate diligent and honest officers from taking important decisions. They demanded that there should be a reasonable period of time after which files should not be reopened. The letter has been signed by retired civil servants like former cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar, former foreign secretary and national security advisor Shivshankar Menon, former foreign secretary Sujatha Singh and former DGP of Punjab Julio Riberio.

The ex-bureaucrats also expressed concern over “selective targeting” of retired and serving officers, apparently for “gaining narrow political advantages”. Last month, the government issued a sanction to the CBI to prosecute former NITI Aayog CEO Sindhushree Kullar and others in connection with the FIPB clearance granted to INX Media, officials said. Besides Khullar, the government also sanctioned the prosecution of former secretary of the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Anup K Pujari, the then director in the Finance Ministry Prabodh Saxena, and former under secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs Rabindra Prasad in the case involving INX Media, they said.

The government had already sanctioned the prosecution of former finance minister P Chidambaram in February this year, following which he was arrested by the CBI. The officers also hit out at the government for making officers bear the brunt of criminal proceedings that “originate from settling of political scores”. The former officials said this will only seem to confirm the worst apprehensions of civil servants that they will get no protection for bona fide acts in the performance of their official duties.

They said all regimes, irrespective of their political affiliations, at both central and state levels, have been “guilty of transgression”. “Serving officials will naturally be demotivated if diligent and honest officers are selectively targeted for punishment for no fault of theirs other than that they were implementing the policy decisions of the government of the day,” the letter added. “It will not be surprising if civil servants procrastinate before processing and examining every proposal of importance, as they have no guarantee that they would not be implicated in criminal proceedings many years later,” the letter said.

The retired bureaucrats said rules must be framed to make the legal principle of estoppel apply on reopening decisions based on information provided at the time the decision was taken. If files are allowed to be “exhumed and dissected on the basis of hindsight and that too with no bar on the time that has elapsed”, no decisions will be made at all in government, they added. “It is indeed a travesty when governance systems spare no effort in ensuring that political elements charged with or prosecuted for very serious offences are given latitude while officers who have faithfully served the nation for over three decades are arraigned on the flimsiest of technical grounds. In the interests of justice, we earnestly urge that there be an early resolution of this issue,” the letter said.

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